A Monte Sereno councilwoman seems to have violated federal election law by double-voting in several recent elections.
Councilwoman Rowena Turner, who was elected to the Monte Sereno Town Council in 2016 and whose current re-election bid is endorsed by the Santa Clara County Republican Party, is registered to vote in both Grants Pass, Oregon, and Monte Sereno.
According to records from the Oregon Secretary of State and the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, Turner has voted twice in at least five recent general elections—2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018—and twice in the 2020 and 2016 primaries.
Louis Caldera, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law and an expert in election law, says that’s illegal.
Under federal election law, it’s a crime punishable up to $10,000 and five years in prison to vote more than once in a federal election. That includes casting a ballot twice for president, congress or a delegate for Washington D.C., Guam or the Virgin Islands.
One of the requirements for registering to vote, Caldera says, is being a resident of the state where you cast your ballot.
“You can’t be a resident of two places at the same time,” he said. “You can have a second home, but that doesn’t make it a residency.”
It’s not uncommon, nor is it illegal, however, for people to be registered to vote in two different states. That typically happens as a result of someone moving without being dropped from the voter roll.
In 2012, a PEW Research Center report on the U.S. voter registration system, found that about 2.75 million people were registered to vote in two separate states. Lucille Weneigieme, the director of communications for the National Vote at Home Institute, said that the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) has been helpful in states maintaining accurate voter rolls.
ERIC sorts through state voter rolls to identify voters who have moved, died, have multiple registrations in the same state or are eligible to vote but not registered. Only 30 states, however, are enrolled in the program, and California is not one of them. “The election administration is local,” Weneigieme said. “That level of national coordination is extremely necessary to be able to make sure that the process works and has good safe guards across the nation because there isn’t a federal election standard in that way.”
While President Donald Trump has sparked fear among his supporters of voter fraud and double voting, Caldera and Weneigieme both say it’s extremely uncommon.
Weneigieme said there are many security measures “baked into the system,” such as voter-specific bar codes and signature verification, that prevent people from committing voter fraud. However, she added, “there are going to be those odd voter fraud issues because it’s a human system.”
Caldera said that often the penalties for committing voter fraud are high, while the benefits are low. The only way voter fraud could sway the election, he said, is if thousands of people voted in two different states.
“It’s unlikely that people would have the conspiracy to commit voter fraud on the level that would be necessary to impact elections,” he said.
Turner did not respond to multiple requests for comment.